By PATRICK GOWER
Ethel Booth has no secret to living to 110 - apart from "just staying and waiting."
The oldest recorded New Zealander, born on Christmas Day 1890, has celebrated the occasion in three centuries.
As she lay in her chair at Presbyterian Support's Trevellyn aged care village in Hamilton yesterday, she agreed to speak to the Herald "as long as you are quick."
Mrs Booth says she never smoked, never drank alcohol and only did "some" partying.
She was born Ethel Mary Davis, the youngest of nine children.
Her roots are firmly in the Waikato - her father Jackie was the youngest member of the 4th Waikato militia which founded Kirikiriroa, now known as Hamilton - and her only overseas travel was a trip to Australia.
Her family would travel by boat or canoe along the Waikato River to get Christmas supplies from Ngaruawahia when she was growing up on a farm in Rototuna, just north of Hamilton.
Mrs Booth still looks back fondly to the days when she would milk the cows before walking to Hamilton East School.
Her husband Edward was killed in the First World War. Aged in her 20s at the time, she raised her sons Gordon, Roy and Bob - all still alive - on her own, leading rest-home caregiver Kerri Cruwys to say that the secret to her longevity might be because she had no "man-stress."
Mrs Booth has watched the transition from horse and buggy to space travel, and along the way has accumulated 11 grandchildren and 26 great-grandchildren.
Nurses say she still manages to growl at son Gordon when he visits her in his wheelchair from a nearby rest-home.
Despite seeing out her 11th decade, Mrs Booth had no birthday or Christmas dinner request - breakfast is her favourite meal.
A large collection of family and friends will hold a party for her today, so she will not be short of help to blow out 110 candles.
Mrs Booth takes no medication, yet unexpected health problems can arise when you reach such a grand age. When 83-year old Gordon recently moved into a rest-home the staff thought he was suffering from dementia because he believed his mother was still alive.
Christmas Day comes but once a year, but for the second in succession Debbie Pedebone, of Wainuiomata, has given birth.
Henry Star Pedebone's arrival at 12.35 am at Hutt Hospital made him the first baby born on Christmas Day in Wellington and capped a day of celebration for Mrs Pedebone and her husband, Greg, whose family now boast six sons and six daughters, all aged under 15.
Not surprisingly, responsibility for organising the family Christmas in the past two years has passed to others.
"My sister-in-law helps out a lot," says Mrs Pedebone.
She was back home last evening to celebrate with the family.
By PATRICK GOWER